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Perennial Garden Summer Fix-Ups

Perennial Garden Summer Fix-Ups

As we go into the month of August, many find that their perennial gardens need a boost. Maybe you discover that most of the plants are spring-bloomers and you have little in bloom going into August. Or perhaps the hot, dry conditions have taken their toll and some of your plants have withered or browned. Even if your garden is in pretty good shape it’s likely that a little TLC is needed to keep things looking good into the fall.

Here’s a list of perennial garden fix-ups, and some photos for clarification and inspiration. As you look at your own perennials, remember that all of your garden tweaks and tasks don’t have to be done at one time, especially when the weather is hot. Sometimes working for 20 or 30 minutes early in the morning, and then stopping for the day, is the best way to approach it.

  • Pull weeds. Crabgrass, purslane and other hot-weather weeds spring up overnight. Keep pulling them. Note that a one or two inch layer of mulch helps to keep weeds under control. You can apply it now, or remember to mulch in May next summer.
  • Deadhead flowers that have finished. For some plants this means cutting them in half, and for others, like daylilies, it means removing the entire finished flower stalk.
  • Look for heat and drought damage. Some perennials may have dried up once too often, and are no longer an asset in the garden. If this is the case, and the plant has mostly shut down for the season, cut the stems down to about 2″ from the ground. The plant should be back next year unless the roots were too dry to support life.
  • Continue to plant! If you’ve got open areas, there are many large, waiting to bloom perennials in our perennial section that will add color now and for years to come. Consider the dark-foliaged hardy hibiscus, for example. They have leaf color and large, showy flowers in the late summer.
  • Add an ornament. Sometimes an object that draws the eye and adds instant color to the garden is the way to improve a fading perennial garden. Consider a colorful birdbath, tin animal, or garden statue.
Sometimes people confuse the round seed pods on daylilies for buds. This is a wilted flower and a seed pod, so this entire stem is ready to cut down into the plant.
Gaura, aka whirling butterflies, starts to slow in flower production in late-July. By cutting the plant in half, removing many of the long branches, you’ll reinvigorate the plant and it will produce dozens more stems and flowers into the fall. This is the before picture.
Here is how the Gaura looks after a quick haircut.
If you haven’t mulched, you’ve got weeds growing. Pull them out while they are young.
It’s not too late to plant perennials that will add color now and for years to come. This hardy hibiscus has purple leaves and tons of buds.
Country Garden has pots of flowering lavender and many other perennials. Just be sure to water them in well after planting and know that until they get established they might need some supplementary hand-watering in addition to your normal irrigation. Note that lavender doesn’t like to be constantly wet, however, so don’t water this plant every day unless you can feel that the soil is very dry.
Look for plants that have dried or are simply closing up shop because of the heat. This Helenium is finishing bloom and the foliage has browned. It will be cut down in the next two or three days, since it’s no longer an asset in the garden. Some perennials will put up new foliage when cut back, but others will wait until next spring to return.
This is a golden Filipendula that has finished flowering. It’s time to cut off those seeds and bare stems to improve the look of the garden. You can do this with Astilbe at this time of year too, once their flowers have gone brown.
Although the Filipendula foliage isn’t wonderful, it’s still green so we know it’s creating energy for the plant. Good enough to leave as is for now.
Cut off any seed pods and browned leaves on your peony plants. In August, if the leaves develop mildew, cut them to the ground.
Consider a colorful ornament for instant excitement in any part of your landscape that needs a lift!
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